See London Marathon Part 1 for the beginning of the story
At marathon mile 23 your body begins to tingle and concentration is difficult. Forget about smiling for pictures.
“Why don’t you just stop?”
“No. No stopping”
“Come on. It’ll stop hurting.”
“No. It’ll hurt worse.”
“Really, just take a short walk through the next water stop. You’ll feel much better.”
“There will be no stopping!”
“Why bother? You aren’t going to PR, you aren’t going to break a record. You aren’t going to accomplish anything. Hell, you’re not even going to beat John Kelly!”
“Shut up! No stopping.”
“The crowd doesn’t want to see a walking joggler. Walking makes the pain last longer. Just get over the pain and keep moving.”
On and on these two battle. In my younger years, the walking side won. But I learned to defeat that side. I haven’t walked in a marathon in 7 years. There’s no secret to defeating the evil homunculus. You just decide you will.
The early race miles
As always the first few miles were a blur. I have no sense of pacing and did nothing but smile and watch the crowd react as they see a joggler pass. The first few miles of a marathon are always my favorite. You’re full of energy as is everyone around you. The crowd noise sounds like Chicago’s El as you pass by.
You hear things like “WOW, that guy is juggling!” “That’s incredible!” “I can’t believe it!” “Did you see that guy juggling!?”
People’s faces light up when they see someone joggling. And though the effect is probably the same as how they react to a guy wearing a Superman outfit, it’s still fun. It also makes the running easier.
In the crowd are little kids holding their hands out for runners to slap. In this race I tried a new trick. Whenever I saw a kid holding their hand out, I’d throw a beanbag about 3 times higher. As it made it’s trek back to Earth, I took the beanbag in my right hand and hit the kid’s hand with it. Then before the first beanbag came crashing down, I threw the bag from my left hand and caught the first one. My very own joggling high five! Seasoned jogglers have to try that trick.
The London marathon course is moderately flat but there are significant sections of rolling hills. The start features some excellent downhill stretches that make you feel like you’re flying. From mile 3 through 12, it’s a flat jaunt through neighborhood streets. Just before the halfway point you go over Tower Bridge. On your left is Tower Castle, the fort/museum that holds the crown jewels. After the bridge, you run parallel with the course’s miles 23 and 24. If you’re really good, you won’t see other runners there. If you’re an average joggler, you’ll see some of the elite women motoring by. The pros are always inspiring.
Miles 14-19 are on a place (according to Roads of Stone) called Canary Wharf. It’s scenic and reminds me of being in an old seaside village on the east coast. They even have cobblestone roads. Fortunately, the running time on those was minimal.
Miles 20 – 22 bring you through their “downtown”. This is where you’ll find all the skyscrapers in London. As skyscrapers go, these weren’t terribly impressive. Of course, I’m from Chicago where we have some of the most massive buildings in the world. Nice enough area though.
Miles 23 and 24 give you a chance to see other runners passing the half-way point. London has many stunt runners and this is a great place to see them. Hundreds of costumes, but also people running on stilts, connected through a cow or horse costume, dribbling basketballs, etc. Londoners love their stunt runners. That’s why this joggler felt a warm reception.
The final miles take you past Big Ben, The Millennium Bridge, The London Eye, and all the other structures for which London is famous. As you approach Buckingham Palace, you’ll see an 800m sign. Then a 600m sign. You make a quick right turn at the 400m sign. Then you see the 200m and finally the finish.
After the initial energy rush of the first few miles, I settled into a good rhythm. Step, throw, step, catch, step, throw, step, catch. The Gballz landed perfectly each time. It still often amazes me how my hands know just where to be. No thinking required.
At mile 10 the rain started. First, it was a cool drizzle. A half mile later it was a steady stream. The Gballz became slippery in my hands.
Flashback to 1998, the North Shore Half marathon, the wettest race I ever joggled. The raindrops felt like bullets of hail. My view was obscured by water on my glasses making the joggling bags look like fuzzy blobs. My cotton shirt was an anchor and each step felt like squishing in a pool of mud. That race was lonely. Except for other runners, there was no one else on the course. No people with flags cheering loudly. No little kids holding their hands up so some runner might slap it. Just a desolate, lonely road which made you wonder aloud why you were running. And it made you think you might be crazy for juggling.
It was this moment that I knew I was joggling for more than just the attention of the crowd.
Beyond the wetness of the rain, the London marathon was not like this at all. The crowds remained and were huge. There were people stacked 3 and 4 rows along the entire way. And rain didn’t seem to bother them. They cheered loudly. Some held umbrellas but others were completely unprotected, oblivious to the water beading up on their clothes. It was not a begrudging acceptance of the rain, but almost an appreciation for it. The rain seemed as much a part of their lives as the air they breathed. Nothing stopped these marathoner supporters. I’ve never seen a better marathon crowd.
The rain continued for another 8 miles. Inconvenient, but if the crowd was staying then we had to stay out there and keep going our hardest. Lord knows these people would appreciate seeing a little juggling
Continued in London Marathon Part 3 tomorrow